Membership, Community, Diversity

What distinguishes Reconstructionist Jews from others?

Reconstructionists have sought to reorient Jewish belief from its generally otherworldly focus to greater attentiveness to the here and now. Mordecai Kaplan (1881-1983) led the movement and taught that Jews must understand themselves as a civilization in process. Jewish life depended on so much more than unchanging religious practice, and he introduced dramatic changes into the religious understanding of Judaism. He chose to refer to the “divinity” rather than to God, seeking to purge the object of prayer of its anthropomorphic overtones. Thus God is more of a cosmic process than a personal creator and sustainer of all that is. Kaplan was most influential in expanding the function of the typical synagogue to include much more than regular liturgical worship. Reconstructionism is by far the smallest of the subcommunities of Judaism, with only about a hundred thousand in the United States, since many Reform and Conservative Jews have come to accept much of what Kaplan taught. In general, Reconstructionist congregations retain more traditional practices, such as wearing the prayer shawl, than do the Reform.


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